Logic Applied……nothing new under the sun.

I have thumbed through Drug Topics magazine forever. My father was a pharmacist; He read the magazine and left it lying around. It was something we discussed as he thought, when I was in high school, I might wish to try out the profession. My father suggested I join the Air Force (he had been drafted Army). All those years ago I just did not feel compelled to study so much chemistry, although in retrospect I wish I had. Biochemistry/biotechnology is the ‘new-new’ thing of my lifetime.

Despite my father trying to convince me of serving my country and obtaining a stellar education via the Air Force, I took a different path. I kept with the science and medicine type themes, earning a BA in Speech Pathology (after leaving nursing right at the beginning of clinicals). I so wanted and needed to see positive outcomes, I left speech pathology for education. My head and heart told me I could apply what I learned as an undergrad and help many students do well. Neuro, learning, behavioral outcomes and more were what motivated me. Watching people slowly be overtaken by declining health, descending into  the depths of hell with the many types of brain damage nature provides (organic and via car accidents, etc.), I had to leave speech pathology.  I went on to be a Peace Corps Volunteer.

My father pursued an advanced  degree in public administration as he foresaw the Kaiser Permanente model to be the future. My father had worked for Kaiser way, way back. He re-invented himself and did things he loved, including working as a consulting pharmacist. He did chart reviews, he   spoke with community members and educated them on everything from how to read up on the medicines they were taking to understanding the difference between a cure and something which treats a symptom (antibiotics vs. other stuff). My father worked with the Red Cross. He wanted to be part of the re-trenching of pharmacy tech programs (more on this in following paragraphs) so he taught pharmacy tech with the INTENTION of getting students into pharmacy school – which he did accomplish with quite a few students.

Education was a great fit for me. I taught for many years – formally, informally, public, charter/public, private, corporate. Each day I always found one ah-ha and it sustained me. I left the classroom/corporate (formal setting) about eight years ago for tutoring and consulting work in ed-tech. The first four to five years were difficult. I was not willing to compete with the shills who promised all parents they could ‘brain train’, teach their child to read, etc. as it was not true. It took awhile to define myself (I was NOT a snake oil salesperson) and clarify there are times when some students do indeed have deficiencies which can not be overcome with what we know currently. I had to admit failure where failure was due, own it and move forward.   From this time period, I  learned how to write tight, effective IEP’s and 504’s. I learned how to have conversations with parents, teachers and admin which actually matter instead of being vague, noncommittal and wishy-washy. I have many accomplishments of which I am thrilled as I have, and continue to, change lives for students and families.

Simultaneously the Silicon Valley folks taught me something completely different – failure was absolutely necessary. Essentially Silicon Valley reiterated what I knew about scientific method. Failure was indeed the answer. Only through failing could you see what you needed to do differently and better.  In Silicon Valley, you are not worth much if you do not take a calculated risk and fail. Confirmation bias is quickly obliterated if you learn to work in and with people from Silicon Valley. I have, by complete accident, had the pleasure to work with some of the brightest talent in Silicon Valley who do and make things which matter. I take calculated risks regularly.

Along the way I obtained my Pharmacy Technician’s License. I did this as I love traveling and living abroad. It gave me hope to know between being a pharmacy tech and tutoring, I could travel, come back to the states, land on both feet and function. Not so. A pharmacy tech license is the equivalent of Gr 9-10 Algebra and chemistry/bio. Everyone told me to cold cock the test (including my father who stated I could do it with one eye covered and a hand behind my back). I was afraid. I took a course. Holy moly. I began to understand some major problems, the least of which is who takes responsibility for what.

Pharmacists created the pharmacy tech program and  never intended for it to be a pathway to pharmacy, dental, med or nursing school. It was meant to alleviate pharmacists of the non-thinking portion of their job. With this in mind, a pharmacy tech is little more sophisticated than working any other repetitive job as the pharmacist still carries the responsibility for the ‘final product’. I know as much about sanitation as I would working in a restaurant and learned more as a science teacher. Since the threshold to train pharmacy techs was so low and the pay little over minimum wage, it did not encourage the right kind of people to come into the program. More often than not, pharmacy techs are underutilized since the program (aside from how the military trains pharmacy techs) is deficient on so many levels.

It could be said the pharmacy tech program in the U.S. is an abysmal failure of everything from logic to creativity to improving healthcare. It failed at launch and has slid downhill ever since.  It was created by pharmacists and  should be re-configured into something valuable, useful and appropriate.

All of this led me to wonder about the article by Jim Plagakis in Drug Topics from September 2014. He addresses the issue of legacy pharmacists, those who are highly paid with no more room to go upward without a career change or pursuing something different. If pharmacists are worried about losing their prestigious place in the dog pile, they should be doing something more akin to what Dr. Atul Gawande does outside the surgical suite. Even though Dr. Gawande has stated over and over he is near or at the top of his game, he finds something new to pursue with excellence on behalf of patients.

Pharmacists have reached the point in time where they need to drop the stance of having ‘earned their keep’ (the equivalent of tenure for teachers) and actually do something above and beyond. Find out what is happening in Silicon Valley regarding ACA (don’t be afraid – there is this amazing place with a med school called Stanford and another place called UCSF with a pharmacy school in the area). Along the way, it would be great if pharmacists thought about improving the pharmacy tech program so they could actually train responsible people looking to pursue a medical career. Create a step-ladder for people to go to pharmacy, medical, nursing and dental school. I would imagine a pre-med student who  worked as a compounding pharmacy tech and was intellectually engaged by the pharmacists would be a shoe in for an outstanding medical program and/or biotech.  According to everything I hear on NPR, we are desperately short of doctors.

Comparing  ‘legacy’ pharmacists to tenured teachers  not only weakens the argument, it begins a strange comparison which benefits neither teachers nor pharmacists. Using the word legacy does nothing to change the connotation. Very few professions in todays 21st Century stay constant. Stagnation or inertia is when some one chooses not to move.

The legacy my father left was very genuine and real. Education was seen not as a mere accomplishment, rather a continuous expectation. One did not stop learning by being ‘done with school’.  He earned the Governor’s Award for Volunteering in IA while he was cycling through various cancer treatments . He volunteered regularly on an exhibit (Iowa Roots, Global Impact: The Life and Legacy of George Washington Carver) which he felt could re-invigorate scientific thinking. Most of all he helped me embrace change as real, necessary and of the utmost importance for succeeding in life.


Where are my social dividends?










Forewarning: I do not have a strong statistical background so I am always skeptical when I read something as I need to think about and evaluate the information a bit longer than others to make sure I understand. If I miss a detail, please be kind enough to send a correction.

Charter schools are a business entity. They are considered non-profit due to how they re-apply their ‘earnings’ instead of giving the earnings to shareholders. In what one might call a twist up of words, non-profits are supposed to be for the benefit of the community which is why they have certain tax advantages, etc. This means instead of being an individual shareholder obtaining dividends, you in effect become a stakeholder in your community and should receive the type of social dividends which benefit your community and make it better.

 With this in mind, I find it important for charter schools to be accurate in reporting their statistics in the same manner a for profit corporation on the NYSE reports. There are GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) rules and any accountant should be able to read and interpret the information in the same way if the books are not cooked and the aim of the company is not to mislead the shareholders. Unfortunately, charter schools are by and large allowed manipulate the books in a variety of ways (this includes grant reporting and ADA monies) and they do. This then allows them to also manipulate and actually distort the data as there are even less people willing to spend the time on non-financial information evaluations.  Charter schools follow ‘data’ on how to appeal to specific groups of people as indicated by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey  which was conducted June 21 through July 22, 2013. This data demonstrates how different categories of parents think, hence, it is easier to market targeted materials.

 The issue at hand is how charter schools report out students who go to college, graduate college and indeed produce a social dividend for a community.  This is how all great non-profits should be evaluated. Unfortunately, charter schools have never been called to prove the social dividend. I had to question this issue as I worked for a charter school and later continued questioning the morality and ethics of charter schools based on what I now know about the background story.  The story of self promotion to those who wish to promote charter schools rarely matches the reality, thus, there must be a marketing department to distort and mis-convey the facts.

Here is another look at data from a different view.

According to Jill Tucker over at The San Francisco Chronicle, I should note there is a difference  between college ready, expecting to get a high school diploma or taking the GED.  I believe this is called journalist clarity.

In 2009, about 600 African American males started high school in the Oakland school district with Thomas and Olajuwon. Of those, an estimated 80 to 100 graduated college-ready. Another 200 were expected to get their diplomas, but not with UC or CSU admission requirements. Others took the GED, or would continue in adult school. Still others spent time in jail.

During those same four years, 31 Oakland public school students ages 11 to 19 were killed across the city. Most of them were shot and most were African American males.

I note this as college ready does not mean the same thing as going to college, completing college, obtaining a degree and providing social dividend.  For charter schools to actually do something different from any other public school, they need to produce the same amount or greater of students who actually attend college and graduate as every other public school in America is charged with getting students college ready – the goal of public education.  This being said, it should be easy peasy for Aspire Public Schools (the largest in California) and KIPP to produce statistics which demonstrate this trend.  This, to my knowledge has not occurred. In fact, what has occurred is the actual removal from Aspire Public Schools of the map showing where their graduates go to college and no evidence can be found on the website for how many students (after 20 years in business) have graduated college, producing a societal dividend substantially different from other public schools.

Out on 21 August 2013 is data from ACT showing:

“The readiness of students leaves a lot to be desired,” said Jon Erickson, president of the Iowa-based company’s education division.

The ACT reported that 31 percent of all high school graduates tested were not ready for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills. The other 69 percent of test takers met at least one of the four subject-area standards.

Just a quarter of this year’s high school graduates cleared the bar in all four subjects, demonstrating the skills they’ll need for college or a career, according to company data. The numbers are even worse for black high school graduates: Only 5 percent were deemed fully ready for life after high school.

The report’s findings suggest that many students will struggle when they arrive on campus or they’ll be forced to take remedial courses — often without earning credits — to catch their peers.

The data reveal a downturn in overall student scores since 2009. Company officials attribute the slide to updated standards and more students taking the exams — including many with no intention of attending two- or four-year colleges.

Under ACT’s definition, a young adult is ready to start college or trade school if he or she has the knowledge to succeed without taking remedial courses. Success is defined as the student’s having a 75 percent chance of earning a C grade and a 50 percent chance of earning a B, based on results on each of the four ACT subject areas, which are measured on a scale from 1 to 36 points.

My sense would be every charter school in the U.S. would wish to report out their great ACT and SAT scores for the reason it resonates to some extent the READINESS for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills.  Any charter school should be tooting their horn regarding the average scores of their students.

I do not have the documentation (hopefully as you read this, you will be able to supply it to me if you know the piece I am referring to), however, I did hear a piece on KQED which regarded how getting a student to college is not enough. In fact, not all colleges are the same and getting children of color to college if the college is not top tier, does not improve rocking the boat and changing the social dividends – in stead it perpetuates it as status quo.

Aspire Public Schools has managed to use data from CREDO (The Center for Research on Education Outcomes – Stanford University) in an odd context. When I read the full report, noted in the URL above, there is a distortion of how one would perceive what is in the full report vs. the carefully selected portions Aspire pulled out to use.

CREDO uses data to show the minute detail of how charter schools have developed their students over time in comparison to other similar schools.  In looking at the data over a 20 year time period, there is an improvement although I would be negligent in stating this improvement is earth shattering or worth of great praise. I will let the data speak for itself.

The national study shows the following for reading and math: Although there is study improvement, 56% of charter school students have no significant difference in reading scores as measured by CREDO than regular public school students. 25% have shown a significant improved difference and 19% show a significantly worse difference.   There is no specific data from Aspire as they are lumped into the national study. In either way, they neither benefit from or substantially detract from the rather sad statistics.

If I break this down, it means only 25% of students in charter schools have shown gains while 75% of students in charter schools were comparable or worse……..Is the effect of changing 25% of students enough social dividend in reading? Should the amount of students positively effected be greater as Aspire has been around for 20 years. Aspire touts how they have the best teachers, systems and data….the statistics are not demonstrating, in my mind, substantial social dividends which I could not have gotten with just improving the public schools over all.

For math, the data is even worse. 40% of charter school students showed no significant difference in gains for math, 31% of students in charter schools fared significantly worse and 29% of students fared better. This means 29% of students in charter schools nationally had improvement while 71% fared the same or worse. Again, this is not sufficient data to show any charter school has leveraged a better system overall.

When more students show no benefit or worse benefit, there is something wrong with your program. It should be the other way around.  If this were a business having to report to shareholders instead of stakeholders, this company would fold.

As a social investment, I am not seeing where charter schools are delivering the goods.

Careful where you set your aim. The charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is mainly driven by opening higher- performing schools and by closing those that underperform. Our analysis suggests that the standards of performance are set too low, as evidenced by the large number of underperforming charter schools that persist. The point here is that, as with students, setting and holding high expectations is an important feature of school policies and practices. More focus is required of authorizers and charter school governing boards to set high performance and accountability standards and hold charter schools to them. – CREDO

This is where the Papa John’s piece on Yahoo comes in.  You can call your ‘ingredients’ whatever you wish. You should also be willing to let outsiders examine the ingredients and most of all, you should be proud enough to add in your own data as comparison. In this instance, Aspire Public Schools has failed. I am guessing this is the same for other charter schools as there have been no interesting news flashes in any of the usual educational journals which would love to pounce on this great news.

Another aspect of this issue is how Aspire is spreading to Tennessee.  Aspire needed to do this as financially they could not make it on the same budget as other public schools in California. They were ‘drowning’ and in fact have not merited the same amount of donations year over year as they had hoped for.  The CFO has been cautious in how he couches this scenario, however, the original goal of Aspire was to EXCEED the other schools in the region on the same budget. This has not happened or at least not in a statistically relevant manner.  This relates to the piece from The New York Times on how Philadelphia is borrowing money to open the schools and people are questioning if the schools are even worth opening, which leads back to the quote two paragraphs up from CREDO.

While charter schools continue to advertise their wares, I continue to be skeptical.  I need to see the following and wish CREDO could produce the data:

Just how many students of charter schools have gone to college, how many have graduated in 4, 5, 6 years?

After 20 years, I would think Aspire Public Schools has to have some of this substantially important data.

This would tell me if the taxes I pay which pays the ADA of charter schools is yielding social dividends in my community.

I’m going to be tutoring forever…….


The past days, weeks and months have provided for a great deal of rousing conversation among teachers, administrators and tutors.  The topic(s) morphed from the horrors of NCLB to what is about to be released from Pandora’s Box (the nice shiny little thing which has been keeping the secrets of NCLB, charter schools, Michelle Rhee, etc. at bay…) when we are appraised of the actual disparity between proficiency and PROFICIENCY.

On my rush to work (tutoring a Japanese exchange student) I caught just an earful of news on NPR. I could not concentrate fully on the news piece and the traffic so I  later  went back and replayed the piece. The piece was quite short and yet the whole message was summed up in the two sentences said by Arne Duncan.

“For far too long, our school systems actually lied to children and to families and to communities,” says Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a recent speech in Washington. And what made those lies possible, according to Duncan, was the one thing most of these state standards had in common: They were low.

I did not need time to ‘think’ through what was being said by Arne Duncan. He was not saying something new to anyone who is or was a teacher. In fact, we have been saying it for years and it fell on deaf ears while we were being scapegoated for noticing the disparity.

While the drum beat to war was starting up (actually, since  before Desert Storm), Americans were fed a sweetly sour pabulum regarding their children and education.  The sweet part made it go down easily for a long time. The sour is the GERD like (gastroesophageal reflux disease) bit which is going to require us to dose ourselves with some antacids.

You can love/hate Arne; You can love/hate Washington D.C. You may despise the word reform and love The Pledge of Allegiance. Whatever it is which pushes your button regarding education, you can not love/hate literacy, math and the ability to reason – these are only lovable and highly laudable ideas.  It is with this love of learning, knowledge, thinking and the courage to deeply consider, reason and discuss ideas that we,  society, will be able to progress.

The public is on the precipice of learning a great truth…..numbers can be made to tell all manners of untruth if stated in just the right way.  Those numbers represent a large problem as it is not representative of one year, it is year over year. No matter how charter schools tried to spin the numbers, the reality is literacy and math skills have barely changed and the population on which the numbers  changed is very small.

It is going to take years to get back to what was ‘lost’ in all the manipulations. The scary part to me is there are not enough hours in the day and years left for me to do nearly the amount of tutoring necessary to make a dent. Even worse – many people I know who tutor are thinking the same thing.


Crossing the boundaries of good taste at school




Finally other people are rallying round the flag called parenting – not in book form, not who can do it ‘better’ or with greater results, but who can do it since it is the right thing to do and schools/teachers JUST CAN NOT DO EVERYTHING for everyone.  The school lunch program as we know it IS CHANGING in America and parents, get this, you are going to need to do your share as the schools start doing more of  their share.

Imagine anyone asking parents to take responsibility? Who knew??  Who thought it would be appropriate to have high expectations of parents?  I was beginning to think abdication was the rule and law of parenting since even Michelle Rhee fears to tread on this group of people except to ask them if they would like to crucify more teachers.

Nutrition is such a key part of a child’s education, people were talking about requesting and allowing children to have more time to eat fresh food as it takes longer.  Finally some one is taking the ball and running down field towards the goal line – children can not learn without proper nutrition and not just at school lunch.  Healthcare will soon be ‘for all’ not the few with coins in their pockets jingling about. School food programs are drastically changing (Thank You Michelle Obama and all the many who have persevered !) due to the concerted efforts of many who have said ‘enough’, we can and need to do better.

We have not crossed the junction yet of actually asking parents to ‘think’ how they will pay to feed their children before getting pregnant, but that discussion will come at some point as the excuse train left the station.

Based on what was discussed this morning with Michael Krasney, school cafeterias can no longer be the bastions of and arbiters in bad taste nor can they waste precious food budgets on crap.  While one great meal a day is better than none, it is imperative that parents start doing what they can to level the playing field nutritionally. An example is Oakland USD in CA now has farmers markets after school in some of the ‘food deserts’ in the area. There are programs where students grow their produce and this is part of the science curriculum, never mind a great opportunity to be outside and enjoy the CA sun.

Parents have the resources and the ability to use the resources (if your kid has time to watch TV or play on the computer, they can sure as hell cook) if they choose.  Having volunteered at the Alameda Food Bank in Alameda County, there is not a ton of good food, but there is some and it is better than what 98% of the world lives on.  There are church and other organizations with food pantries, there are places to access fresh instead of paying extra for processed and frozen/packaged. If you collect WIC and/ or SNAP, you get to choose how you use those resources.  Students learn best when not on sugar rushes and stomachs are filled with useable calories.

In the most impoverished nations of the world we give U.N. food drops. Here, we can grow so much we throw some away if even after exports and U.N. food drops there is extra.  We have to do better with our resources and the people most able to be in this fight are parents.

Occasionally I see billboards around town in various languages with the message, “My kitchen/house, my food choices” and it actually gives a view of what it looks like to stand up proud and tall as the adult in the relationship of the family and make different/better choices. YOU – the parent…….it is about you and how you set the example.

Teachers, we just have to deal with whatever is sent our way.  Send us students which are fed and rested and we can do just about anything.




Ms. Rhee?  Ms. Rhee – are you there??  I can’t hear you – is the line broken??


When and how did The 4th of July becomes ‘ordinary’ and routine….





When I awoke this morning, I saw a bright sunny day. I was able to prepare a nutritious but simple breakfast – quinoa, fruit, almonds.  There was coffee. My shower with soap was possible as there was enough water to wash the soap off (there are many places in the world where this is NOT the norm).

The birds were tweeting as I dressed and I heard a cat meow – it was that quiet!   A very nice start to my 4th of July – a day for me to REFLECT, as opposed to celebrate. I am filled with pride at American History – I am also a realist. Not all of what we do at the end of the day in this country is perfect, it is just better than any other coutnry. We are still the country which provides the dream to people all over world the possibility  of becoming a citizen.

I wanted to meditate and  thank those who made my life possible.  Except for planes from an airport or news/police helicopters, I don’t hear much sound in the sky. While I have witnessed visually (and in my lungs) layers of smog, it is not all encompassing.  There have been many droughts in my life time and yet there has been potable water I did not need to run through a filter and/or heat unless camping.  I could go on and on, but suffice it to say I live a life few outside of the western world have access to. This life was ‘given’ to me by the sweat, tears and blood of others.  These others are who I honor.

I wanted to think about the British prisoners who were first shipped here when Britain outgrew them ( No, Virginia, the Pilgrims did not settle America – it was already settled by Native Americans!).  I forced myself to think of all the wars fought against the British, against the Native Americans,  and  the wars we fought against one another over beliefs (we still fight these wars today, just not on the same mass scale as the Civil War).  I thought about the wars we have fought, right or wrongly in the hopes of providing a greater good to others.  Next, I thought about the men and women abroad on this day – far from home, far from comfort, far from their family and doing that which many of us either fear or seem to loathe and will not participate.

“Clearly, young people would prefer to be doing other things,” said Beth Asch, a senior economist at RAND Corporation who specializes in defense manpower issues.

I thought about my father who had served in the U.S. Army during the last great draft.

My life is privileged beyond what most can ever hope to attain in this lifetime.  I have a well stocked library within one mile of home, there is fresh food.  There is infrastructure and electricity. I have a cell phone.  My neighbors say good morning.  I am allowed to worship my interpretation of God and listen to the music of my choice. Just about everything in my life is attainable with some elbow grease.

Every successful business person in America “has enjoyed that success because of the sacrifice of someone else’s sons and daughters” in uniform, Garland said. The argument echoes a concern repeated often over the decade: War efforts have fallen on the shoulders of the few, while the lives of the many went largely unencumbered. Or as some troops have been fond of saying: “We went to war, America went to the mall.”

The only way I can ever say THANK YOU to all the people who made the quality of my life possible, I need to show respect, honor and demonstrate a level of deportment in line with showing deference.

What I realized as I sat on the side of the street as the local parade went by was many people see 4th of July as some sort of annual party. It is ordinary and routine. You go out and buy stuff to decorate your house.  In and of itself, it is not bad to have a party and invite friends over.

There was none of the honorable pomp for our military.  There was no dignity, save for the soldiers themselves – Army, Coast Guard, National Guard, ROTC….it was as if others thought they were merely providing entertainment for us, the parade goers.  I did not see people standing nor anyone even putting their hand over their heart. I was one of the very FEW clapping and saying ‘Thank You’.

While I know this scene and public behavior would be different in various parts of the U.S., it surprised me how insulated we were here in my immediate community. I don’t know how waylaid – we used to be a Navy town. We have Coast Guard Island and yet the tone of the parade was off – by the observers, the very ones who are supposed to be ‘celebrating’ our freedom.

Part of me wonders if it is our lack of teaching history (until a few years ago it was not ‘tested’ so of little value).  Another part of me wonders if we have become so comfortable in our little perceived world we forget what we are even about anymore.  The 4th of July is neither ordinary or routine.  It is a celebration worthy of our full attention – including different behavior.


Why ‘grading’ the teacher is not only wrong, but ineffective. Part II of II Blogs

Gawande, Atul, Personal Best, The New Yorker 3 October 2011  p. 44, 46-50, 51-52

This is Part II of two blogs begun March 2012 which addressed Dr. Gawande (New Yorker Magazine Article). He has a  quest for ‘coaching’ to continue developing  into his Personal Best.  I felt it necessary to analyze the article written by Dr. Gawande in order to address a professional sense of self-reflection, that of a professional surgeon.  Dr. Gawande so thoroughly addressed his personal role in medicine AND all the other potential factors  of medicine that I was compelled to use this as an example.   Dr. Gawande admitted the fault of being human and demonstrated humility in  not being  God.  He noted that the human condition is imperfect yet there is a way to learn and continually improve ourselves over time,  most often with self-reflection and insight from others as it is difficult to view ourselves while being ourselves.

Only by carefully observing other professionals outside the field  of education can we begin to develop a consciousness of  professionalism, what it means to good, better, best, great and so forth and look for tools to apply to the teaching profession.  Focusing only on education assumes the worst case scenario – teachers are distinctly different in the world of humans, but instead of being viewed as deities, in America, they are viewed as pure evil by many, often including their own administrators and the government at state and federal levels.

When we see what others do, we get past the misanthropic view of one group of people (non- teachers)  regarding teachers and notice more of  the similarities between teachers and other professionals.  Once back from the brink of insanity,  we can address the multitude factors which effect the outcomes of education, which are not strictly the result of teacher quality.  Many outcomes in education have everything to do with poverty, parental involvement and  self motivation/will.

If we were to blame only surgeons and doctors for ALL medical outcomes, no one would have surgery any more. It is both a science and an art.  There is not ‘perfection’, rather there are gradations of success based on a whole slew of issues above and beyond the doctor/surgeon.  We may seek perfection –  this involves coaching and improving professional practice.  It is NOT the golden bullet to prevent all problems.  Doctors can not account for your DNA, what you choose to eat, how you choose to take care of yourself.  Doctors have to work with what is presented to them and hope that with their best ministrations, they obtain a positive outcome as they take an oath to do no harm.  In the case of doctors, we need to look from within regarding outcomes of surgery,  because we came to the doctor damaged.

When we grade a teacher, we wish to push results and outcomes on people whom have the least control over what goes on in a child’s life. Teachers have only 40/168 hours, including sleep. Take out sleep (which is substantially important) and you have 40/118 hours assuming kids sleep a 10 hour night. In both cases, 40 hours is very little and yet so much is expected.   Teachers, like doctors, have to work with what is presented to them and hope that with their best ministrations will produce positive outcomes in nine months of the school year of eight-hour school days.  Let me be clear – most kids do not sleep even eight hours a nigh.t Not all school days are actually eight hours so the numbers I present are skewed by things such as testing, minimum days, staying up late at night for a variety of reasons and a multitude of other issues (lockdowns, snow days, illness, etc.).  Grading a teacher on amount of time of ‘influence’ alone is inadequate.

In order to explore  various ideas within education reform, I also sought out different pieces of writing from others who address the ideation of grading teachers.   It is not enough to say something is a  bad or good idea, rather one needs to support different views and perceptions so the discussion can center on what is best for children, not what is best for our sense of power over things we lack control.

As Dr. Gawande indicates, coaching is costly and rarely something schools can afford. It is awkward – in the hospital and in the classroom.  Obtaining coaching can be (and often is viewed outside sports and singing) seen as an admission of failure instead of the converse – an admission of willing to improve.  When coaching is used as punishment in education, it automatically infers substandard performance.  To change the perception of coaching in education will be no different or easier than the exact experience Dr. Gawande addresses at the end of his written piece.   Demonizing teachers does not improve their quality – it does slowly wear them down and destroy them which could not be good for students.

I am done picking at the bone of grading teachers with  a public which hates  teachers, who think denigrating and demeaning teachers (public humiliation/bullying/ exposing student success or failure on our backs) is reform.   This bone is from a  recently dead animal which was left rotting on the street, run over by a car and bits of it are smashed into the concrete. The piece of bone left has tendons and muscle hanging from it, smells of horrible decay and clearly would be of no use to the mammal it came from so we need to start over and not be so willing to kill.  Bloodsport does not ever portend to good.





So, to use a quote:

New Yorker Magazine cartoon (5 Dec 2011) by Victoria Roberts: “There’s an elephant in the room and no zookeeper.”

Let’s try to find a better course of action because grading teachers is not working the way we assumed it would.  Here is a smattering of examples of alternative perspectives.  What would be awesome is if the people who hired teachers had as much interest in teacher success as their own rise to power.

Almost all men can stand adversity, but if you want to judge a man’s true character, give him power.   (I have been unable to find the source in order to attribute this quote – if you know it, please comment!)






When society begins supporting ways for teachers to improve their personal best, obtaining the caliber of teachers  wished for will be in reach.  Brigham and Women’s Hospital in MA and Harvard University are fortunate to have such a self reflective staff member AND some one so willing to share their personal experiences in order to help others.  By supporting Dr. Gawande and his willingness to strive for better, these institutions and patients benefit greatly all the way around.

We would do far more to improve education by creating a positive environment for teachers.   It is our choice – surgically destroy education with reforms that have little to nothing in offering actual  improvement or healing what happens in the classroom by owning our locus of control and assisting teachers in achieving their personal best.


My Race ‘Lessons’

Two very important things have happened in my life which helped me clarify the difference  between race and behavior and how behavior can indeed be related to a race by ‘their’ choice, not by my observation.  Fortunately for me I was raised in what now seems an idealized heterogeneous world………meaning every possible combination of race, religion, disability, sexuality and all the other isms.  Currently I live in what has to be the Craig Venter lab for heterogeneity – N. California bay area -if you can not find it here, it plain does not exist.

My parents raised me in such a way as I did not understand people were different other than good or bad. You were either a good person (however you qualify that) or a bad person, again how you qualify the description. I don’t remember my family using race as a qualifier – it had to do with being involved in the community, being a nice person just because you were and equally, if you were bad, you were bad at the bone, not at the skin. I had a father who made sure I saw the inside of every possible organized religious center (except Mormon, for obvious reasons) and was told he did not care what I grew up to believe as I long as I respected everyone elses views which were sure to be in some ways different from mine.

In addition, I was pretty convinced at a young age I was ‘African’ because we all came out of Africa and I just happened to be lighter skinned (obviously this will upset some one and I am sorry, but I have read the anthropology).  By time I was 10 years old, I knew I was going to the continent of Africa (and I knew it was a continent with very different people as I had met Africans- Muslims, Christians and Animists) and ultimately I did with Peace Corps. My Peace Corps grandmothers looked like me – skin color and nappy hair. They were more surprised their Peace Corps Volunteer was not white and did not have a red one piece Speedo (all the re-runs sold to various African countries of Baywatch). I was ecstatic they looked like me – it was confirmation I was from Africa.

None of this prepared me for two major events which helped me understand behavior.

In graduate school I developed  great friendships with two very important women. One was a light-skinned black women who was a naturalized Jamaican. Her mother had been a maid for white families. When she was 10, she came to America. She gave nobody any excuses for not getting educated and held herself to high standards.  She taught me poverty was a circumstance; being educated was a choice.  I consider this woman my ‘twin’ separated at birth and it is unfortunate we are a few shades off in skin color or we could pass this way!

The other friend was an American/Kenyan.  She was born here to parents who were Kenyan and studied at Cornell University during the time the U.S. wanted to help educate people from Third World Countries.   She grew up in Kenya and came to the U.S. only for graduate school and was going back to Kenya, to improve Kenya.  What I learned from this young woman was that black Americans act in a way that is uncomfortable for black people from other parts of the world.  I learned this when a black man asked her for some change on Broadway in NYC and she said, “You need to get a job and earn your money” and I was upset with her statement. I asked her how she could be that way and that became one of the best discussions of my life in understanding race versus behavior.

I taught for Aspire Public Schools in Oakland, CA when the principal(s) decided to use Your Black Muslim Bakery and affiliated organizations as our security guards.  Other than buying great sweet potato pies at the bakery, I was from S. California so did not know the ‘local’ history.  What I knew for certain was the men who were our guards, who dressed in suits with bow ties, acted oddly and made me more uncomfortable than the neighborhood.  (By this point in my life I had taught middle school in Compton, CA and lived/worked in Harlem, NY, lived in the burbs of Los Angeles and regularly was ‘around during various riots.)  I could not understand what made me uncomfortable – many of the men were attractive, they were somewhat polite but in an abstract way, they did not have Qurans….. So, during a staff meeting, I addressed my concerns in an open forum.  Another staff member supported me. I was later counseled privately  by my principal that I needed to ‘value the community I served’ as in, “You, young lady are racist and can not admit it.”  I was shocked that he was insinuating I was racist, so I went home and contacted my friends of the ‘United Nations’ (what I call my group of everyone from everywhere) and asked them to help me understand what I did that was racist. I told them I was going to make an appointment to see a psychologist to start working on this.   The next day I made the appointment.  I went to counseling. My friends could not give me any pointers then nor now as to what was wrong with me and they really did not think I was racist.  My psychologist felt I was pretty balanced, open-minded, willing to think through issues and did not fall under the typical classification of racist. This does not mean I am perfect, it means I took the situation seriously as I find racism offensive.

Later, over about 10 months, I came to find out who/what The Black Muslim Bakery and subsidiaries was about.  In the 11th month, I learned they were part of the people responsible for murdering Chauncey Bailey. I realized what made me feel ‘ishy’.  I was not used to being around ex-cons.

The one thing my parents failed at was integrating me into a world where I would interact with cons/felons.   I was not too angry though – my dad actually taught classes at the State of CA Women’s Prison in Southern CA and talked about it, but always made it such that society had let these people down, not that they had done something wrong so how could I blame him?  He wanted me to understand it was up to me to shape my community, not that people were inherently bad (except for sociopaths, which was ‘organic’ brain disease).

I know what it means to be the hated/despised one as I have been to South Africa. Many of the white people there dislike Jews as much as they dislike black people.  When I was there, I was a bit scared due to the fact that almost every 7-11 equivalent openly sells neo-nazi propaganda magazines and it is nothing to see swastikas in the ‘ghetto’ and nice areas.  I understand hate as there are people right now running to lead my government in America who believe I am inherently bad because I believe in Buddhism, Judaism and Animism.

I hear elderly people say (parents, parents friends, people here in the bay area of all colors) they do not like when the youth is out and menacing.  It is awkward for the elderly to not feel uncomfortable when people run around with their hoodies up…..do they have something to hide?  Are we kind of living a bit of Clockwork Orange?  I am not old enough to be though of as elderly so I can only go by what I hear.  I do know that a ‘normal’ person feels at a minimum ‘awkward’ (if they are being honest with themselves) when they are in downtown Oakland, at night and see people with hoodies up, pants sagging, etc.  According to what I heard on Michael Krasney today (NPR) when he was talking with people from Castlemont High School in Oakland Unified SD, there are kids which are afraid of the people in their environment.

So, all of this being stated, when some one decides to play the race card(s) as has been done lately (Trayvon Martin), I want to hear what the other side is saying/thinking.  I did not say what the other side is saying or thinking is correct, I want to hear it so I can make a proper judgement call based on my experiences.

I encourage others to ‘hear out’ the other side in the form of what is being called ‘restorative justice’ and then be critical.   In order to address the problem, we really do need to know is it race or is it behavior.  Calling it ‘race’ makes it easier to deal with immediately but dampens the overall issue, clouds up judgement and prevents people from sorting through the layers.

In my opinion, we have more of a problem in this country based on people’s BEHAVIOR and self-respect than we do about color. Heck, we managed to elect a black President.

26 March 2012  Forum with Michael Krasney


Interview included:  Jabari Gray, James Taylor

And more has been revealed:


Particularly of interest is the fact the parents took out rights to trademarks involving their sons name…….